Is the 2021 Toyota Supra better with a four-cylinder engine?
After failing to fall in love with the six-pot, we try the new 2.0-litre Supra
For all the online hubbub in the build-up to the Toyota GR Supra's release back in 2019, we've not exactly seen hundreds of them on the roads – which is a shame given how striking they are in the metal, and how it'd be nice to see a change from the hundreds of Boxsters and Caymans that litter the roads in the South of England.
So why wasn't it the uber-smash hit the internet chatter would've had you think it'd be? Well, the sports car market isn't exactly ablaze, and we found the 3.0-litre Supra with its torquey BMW straight-six engine to be a bit, well, scary. There was something of a disconnect between the engine and chassis, and therefore between the tyres and Tarmac. It was a car that always felt a bit on-edge, and you ended up driving it more like a GT than a sports car, simply because it always felt a bit unsure of itself when you tried to really thrash it like an uninvited bath spider.
Which is a shame. But Toyota has tried to fix those woes by releasing a cheaper, lighter Supra with a less powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. It's the sort of chat that'd have you flogged and hounded from the Internet's Church of 2JZ fanboys (who probably all drive their Mum's Corollas), but we thought the sensible thing to do would be to actually drive the new 'lesser' car. So we have. View our findings in the video below or read on for more thoughts.
What is it?
It's a five-door SUV with a hybrid system that's good for an electric-only range of… oh.
Well, this is an unusual car for 2021. It's a two-door sports car with a 2.0-litre, 258hp, 400Nm petrol engine under its bonnet (also seen in the Morgan Plus Four) and it sends its power to the rear wheels through an electrically controlled limited-slip differential. It has an automatic gearbox.
The 2.0-litre Supra looks much the same as the 3.0-litre – we love the race-car-esque foglight
For comparison, it's 100Nm and 77hp down on the six-cylinder Supra, but it only costs £46,000 and there aren't really any options other than a £600-ish paint charge if you don't want a yellow one. And you should get a yellow one because it's stunning. It's £8,000 cheaper than a six-cylinder Supra, which is enough spare money to also buy a knackered old six-cylinder BMW saloon if you really miss the sound and possible bumper-hedge liaisons.
How does it drive?
The 2.0-litre Supra fires into life with a more hum-drum drone than the six cylinder, and as you accelerate hard through the gears you get the same slightly honky engine noise that started to annoy us after seven months with our Mini Clubman JCW. It's fine though. And let's not forget that the six-cylinder car wasn't exactly a yowling screamer, thanks to all those emissions filters. But the six-pot does sound more Supra-ey and is a smoother thing.
And that's pretty much where the six-cylinder's benefits over the four-pot vanish like the feathered edges of the rubber number 11s you can still leave in the lower-power Supra. The 2.0-litre car still has plenty of shunt, and you'll get from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds (vs. 4.3 seconds in the 3.0-litre) and you'll still hit a 155mph limiter. It feels perfectly quick enough to be classed as a sports car, and unless you're taking it on a Very Large Racetrack you won't miss the extra power.
You sit almost over the rear wheels with a long bonnet stretching away into the distance
The smaller engine also helps slash 100kg from the weight of the Toyota (taking it to 1.4 tonnes), and you actually feel the difference over the front axle when you heave into a corner. The steering remains as quick as ever, so the nose swipes into corners just as quickly as the 3.0-litre, but there's less of an argument with physics to turn it in.
You'll really notice the difference on corner exit. You can get on the power so much earlier, and on bumpy British roads you'll be using more power more of the time in the smaller-engined Supra. It's far more capable of accelerating on broken Tarmac without spitting its rear tyres wide at the earliest opportunity. You sense the 2.0-litre engine is a better match for the chassis, and it actually works with you to demolish a twisting road rather than stepping sideways unexpectedly.
"It's just a Z4" commenters will be pleased to know the Supra gets its own compound of Michelin tyre, stiffer wheel bearings and loads of suspension differences
Every fast drive in the 3.0-litre Supra left us with clammy palms and saying a short prayer of gratitude for the stability control. The 2.0-litre Supra encourages the more average-skilled of drivers to switch the stability systems into a looser mode – it lets go far more gently when it does slide, and it feels a whole lot less spiky. It encourages you to push it harder, and we'd wager that most drivers will get more satisfaction from the 2.0-litre.
That said, there's still something about the Supra that denies you a total sense of connection with the road. It's partly down to a suspension setup that still doesn't tie you into proceedings in the way the Porsche Cayman or Alpine A110 so effortlessly do; and the steering requires a bit of faith to really chuck the Supra into fast corners.
What about the rest of it?
It's still a pretty easy car to live with. The adaptive dampers are just about comfy enough in normal mode, so you can do roadtrips without feeling as if you've enjoyed a massage in a Turkish prison. There's a reasonable amount of road noise at 70mph, but not so much you have to shout at your passenger.
The cabin is a bit gloomy, but just about okay for the money
Cabin entry and exit requires a fair bit of ducking down under that swooping roofline, but once you're in things are roomy and pleasant – although the cabin is a bit drab, save from a colourful infotainment screen nicked from BMW. It has wireless Apple CarPlay and does the job really quite well – so it's a shame you can't get the upgraded JBL speaker system on the 2.0-litre car. The included four-speaker setup is really quite weedy, and there's no option to upgrade. Boo, hiss (or just boo if you have Dolby enabled).
Buy the 2.0-litre Supra and you'll get 35mpg without really trying – expect more than 40 on a motorway run
Boot space is really quite impressive for a sports car – it's a 290-litre space on paper, but it extends into the cabin behind the seats. The removable parcel shelf means you'll be able to show off your house-plant carrying abilities on the 'Gram before hitting the Hakone turnpike for a drift session on the way home from the garden centre. Or something.
Should I buy one?
If you like the looks and 'get' the Supra thing, then the 2.0-litre version is the best yet. It gives you more confidence on a twisty road and it's just a more pleasant car to drive fast. Sure, you slightly miss the (actually-not-that-impressive) six-cylinder noise of the 3.0-litre and there's not as much straight-line speed, but you genuinely have more fun more of the time in the 'lesser' car. And it's a rare sight, so you'll always stand out.
You probably know this, but the S is modelled on Wehrseifen (a corner at the 'Ring)
That said, £46,000 does put the Supra in the ring with the Alpine A110 (£49,000) and a four-cylinder Porsche Cayman (£45,000 but do budget for a steering wheel along with all the other options…) , and both of those cars are even more engaging to drive, and both feel engineered to give you more of a connection to the road than the Toyota manages. But if you're going to get a Supra regardless, save yourself some cash and get the baby version. It's just better.